Turner Bill Creating School Choice Program Headed To Full Senate For Final Vote

TRENTON – The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today approved a measure sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would establish an interdistrict public school choice program to enable students to attend the school that best suits their needs.

“This bill will help erase the socioeconomic lines drawn in the sand that for too long have prevented many students from achieving their true potential,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer). “This measure will allow parents to choose the school that is best equipped to meet their child’s needs while, above all, ensuring that public dollars remain dedicated to fund public education.”

Senator Turner’s bill, S-1073, would make permanent the interdistrict public school choice program, which was established in 2000 and expired in 2005. The bill would allow for the establishment of choice districts, which would be permitted to enroll out of district students on a space available basis. Schools interested in becoming a choice district would apply with the state Department of Education.

Under the program, students would apply to attend their district of choice, which would use criteria outlined in the bill’s provisions to accept or deny students. Students would be required to be enrolled in grades pre-school through twelve, and would have had to attend the sending school district for at least one year prior. Students enrolling in pre-school or kindergarten would be able to waive the one-year requirement if an older sibling already attends the choice district. Choice district admission preference would be given to siblings of students who are already enrolled. Schools with limited space would be permitted to hold a lottery to help in the selection process. Students accepted into a choice district would be permitted to remain enrolled in the school until graduation.

Sending school districts would be responsible to provide transportation for elementary school students who live more than two miles from their choice district, and for high school students who live more than two and a half miles away.

The measure, which has already passed the General Assembly, now heads to the full Senate for final legislative approval.

“Students should not be handcuffed to a school solely based on their zip code or home address,” added Senator Turner. “This bill will enable families across New Jersey to tap into all the best that our public education system has to offer.”

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